by Courtney Tomey
If you’re running a successful wedding photography business, it’s likely you’re conducting in-person sales sessions. And if you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t anticipate that your love of photography would somehow translate into you needing to be a sales person… the two skills don’t seemingly share much in common and if you don’t have a background in sales it can be really nerve-wracking. But, there is a silver lining! Sales don’t have to be scary, and there’s actually one trick that will not only help make you and your clients more comfortable in the sales room, but will lead to even bigger purchases. We’re talking small talk.
The secret to being an excellent sales person is being able to make your clients feel at ease, and transcend the situation beyond an uncomfortable, high pressure sales situation. The goal is to make it not feel like a sale at all. But how do we do that? We find and create a connection with our clients, we can even forge one if we need to. And the great news is that you already possess this skill as a photographer!
When you step into a shoot with a new client that’s a complete stranger, you’re working quickly to create a connection with them so you can get them comfortable in front of your lens, and create trust between you and your client so they’ll go along with your direction, prompts, and sometimes seemingly crazy ideas. By the end of the shoot, you feel like you’ve known each other for a long time, and you’ve built a connection that will carry through to the next time you see them. Don’t downplay this relationship… We want to use this connection in the sales room.
I’ve heard a lot of photographers say they’re hesitant to start selling products to their clients for fear of sullying the relationship, When we think of sales, we think of sleazy old-school car salesmen who use all the typical tactics to get you to open your wallet, but this isn’t what we’re talking about when it comes to selling your studio or your photos. Sales sessions should feel fun for your clients, this is where they get to pick out all of the fun albums and prints and products that they’re going to be excited to hang on their walls and share with their friends and family. They want someone knowledgeable and professional to hold their hand and walk them through this decision… and what better person than you, who has already created that beautiful connection with them behind the camera at their photo shoot? They trust your expertise and experience, and even think of you as a friend. So use this relationship to create a fun, easy conversation about their needs. Learn more about their lifestyle, their home, their personalities so that you can help fill a need that they have. They need help displaying these beautiful photos they’ve just taken, and you have the expertise and resources to solve that for them.
Now, on to the practical advice: When your clients walk into your studio space for their sales session, do not start selling to them right away. Don’t immediately start looking at pictures, don’t talk shop. Instead, make conversation with them. You know things about them from having met them at their session, right? Use that to your advantage. I make notes after every meeting I have with a client… where they work, how old their kids are, little side stories that may have come up in conversation or things we have in common, and I study these notes right before they come in for their sales session. Clients love that you remember little details about them, and I’ll let you in on a little secret: People LOVE to talk about themselves. So, let them. Get into the rhythm of an easy-going, friendly conversation, and allow that relationship you developed at their sales session to come back around. If you can make them laugh, feel comfortable, and begin to remember that they trust you, you will transcend the role of “salesperson” and instead feel like a trusted friend and problem-solver. I recommend spending at least 10 minutes chatting with your client before you pull out the laptop and pricing and get down to business.
Some of my highest sales and most fun sales sessions have been with clients who I really took the time to talk to and get to know. Sit down and have a glass of wine with them before you get started, talk about how their wedding plans are going or how their kids’ school year is coming along. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a person in such a short amount of time, and the natural-feeling comradery of the interaction will make all the difference in how your client perceives your intentions. Be a friend that’s excited to see their photos for the first time with them, get pumped about where they’re going to hang them, advise them with your years of expertise. When your clients see how much emotional energy and time you’ve invested in their experience, they’ll be invested too and much more willing to open their wallet because they know they’re in good hands.
If small talk doesn’t come naturally to you, practice while you’re commuting. Think of interesting leading questions, get curious about your clients’ lives, and start actively listening when they answer. You’ll be surprised what little tid-bits end up being the opening for great conversation next time you see them, and they’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well you remember them. Use this simple trick, and you’ll watch your sales start to rise, I promise.